Young athletes spend a lot of time together on the field, in the locker room, traveling to games and more. While this quality time is great for team bonding, it also makes it easy for infections to spread from player to player.
The cuts and scrapes that come along with sports also increase an athlete’s chance of infection, especially in contact sports. Even the healthy germs on the outside of our skin can become a serious problem when cuts or scrapes allow them to enter the body.
Athletes are at increased risk for infections including:
- Chicken pox
- Fungal skin infections of the feet or jock-strap area
- Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Some types of herpes virus
- Whooping cough
While some of these infections may be simple to treat, others, like MRSA and meningitis, are serious and painful conditions that could require hospitalization or surgery.
To prevent infections, the best offense is a good defense. Athletes of all ages should follow these infection control tips:
Make great hygiene the game plan
With proper hygiene, many athletes can stop infections before they have a chance to spread.
“Good hygiene and frequent handwashing significantly helps reduce transmission of infections. Everyone should wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds long,” recommends Troy Smurawa, M.D., Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at the Children’s Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
Other good hygiene practices for athletes include:
- Shower with soap and water after every practice and game
- Regularly wash and dry uniforms, socks, gloves and other items worn during games and practice
- Wash and cover any open cuts or sores immediately
- Report any possible infection to coach, athletic trainer, school nurse or parents
Sharing isn’t caring
Young athletes may end up sharing water bottles, equipment, helmets, and even towels and razors. These items make it easy for germs to hop from one athlete to another, spreading infections. Your athlete should have his or her own equipment, water bottle, ointments and other items at every practice and game. These personal items should be clearly marked as theirs and never shared with another player.
Wash, rinse, repeat
Infections most often spread by touch and close contact. When athletes share weight lifting equipment, mats, tackling dummies or other items, these items need to be cleaned between each use with a spray or disposable cleaning wipes. Athletes should also put a barrier, such as a towel, between their skin and shared equipment.
Vaccines protect everyone
All athletes should be up to date on their vaccines and booster shots, including flu shots. Immunizations can help stop serious infections like chicken pox, measles, whooping cough and the flu. These vaccines are especially important if athletes face off with teams from areas with low vaccination rates or from other countries.
The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine helps keep athletes healthy and in the game. Learn more about our programs and services.